Everything is supersize in Redcoats’ world: epic drums and vocals, and a guitar and bass synergy that throbs, chops and drones. “It’s an honest brand of rock’n’roll” states singer Emilio Mercuri.
Mercuri possesses the sort of classic seventies rock timbre that can compete with the thunderous riffs of the era, which proved handy when he ran into the formidable rhythm section of bassist Rhys Kelly and drummer Andrew Braidner – who’d already started playing in bands at high school in Melbourne. They found a fellow journeyman in Neil Wilkinson. As a guitarist with chops in any genre, he was playing alongside the likes of Spencer P Jones (Beasts of Bourbon) and Cathy Green (X), learning invaluable lessons from masters of their craft.
In those early days, the four made it a regular mission to head out to Melbourne’s venues like the Espy and the Prince of Wales, to watch bands such as The Vasco Era, The Drones, The Cat Empire – anything with a combustible glow. “Just to be able to go out any night of the week and see a good band play… everything was inspiring,” Mercuri recalls
The band’s individuality and hard-work ethic made them an obvious support choice for fellow heavyweight acts such as Grinspoon, Papa Vs Pretty, Calling All Cars and Karnivool. Their debut, self-titled EP was recorded with Rob Long in 2011 and mixed and mastered by Lindsay Gravina. Its first single, ‘Dreamshaker’, climbed to #76 in Triple J’s Hottest 100 poll, cementing the band’s status as one to watch.
When it came to plotting the course of their debut album, the band decided isolation was the best option. They bunkered up in a valley at the foot of the Grampians, and again in the bush outside Daylesford, to forge songs out of jam sessions that went on long into the night. By day they’d walk out into the wilderness, getting willfully lost, then return to the rehearsal room to explore that sense of disorientation, expanding and experimenting with riffs.
It’s a trippy odyssey brilliantly captured by LA producer Dave Schiffman (Nine Inch Nails, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dead Meadow, Dandy Warhols, Mars Volta), who flew into Byron Bay’s 301 Studios to work with the band before handing over to Howie Weinberg for mastering.
First single ‘Raven’ is a dark quandary. Tracks like ‘House of Luna’ present a never-before-heard sound for the band, while ‘100 Seasons’ and ‘Death of Ecstasy’ are igniting live audiences and then there’s the encapsulating journey of ‘Mean Money’, an opus to Mother Nature.
“It’s the closest to what we sound like in a room together,” says Wilkinson. “Dave got us to be as honest as possible. It just sounds like you pressed your head against the speaker box. It sounds like us.”
“We’re all taken by different songs,” admits Mercuri. “Some of us really love ‘Worlds Between’, others are more taken by ‘Serpent Charmer’ – that’s a wild one that transports me away from this world sometimes. The objective was to put people in a trance-like state by the end of the song.”
Something of a Redcoats trademark is using droning guitars as a base over which hypnotic rhythms loop the listener in. On stage, it’s as though the four have a shared consciousness, all plugged into the same main. It’s this intensity that has made them the popular choice for touring bands of a heavier genre, like Stone Temple Pilots.
“Our mantra was that with our live show we should generate kinetic energy at the audience,” says Mercuri. When you play support slots you have to win over a new crowd every time. We get some good heckles: ‘Get a hair cut!’ ‘Save the whales!’ ‘Put some shoes on!’ ‘Play Nirvana!’”
The Redcoats experience transcends modern genre-labelling; instead tapping into the roots of modern rock, back when experimentation was boundless. They take this sense of wonder and pull the listener into a vortex of gentle transfixion or ritualised chaos. “You could sense the excitement coming out,” says Wilkinson of music’s sonic explorers, “like, ‘What the fuck is that sound?’”
Whatever it is, it’s a feeling Redcoats have bottled and shaken up.